Jeannine Pearce celebrated her win with Councilman Rex Richardson. Photos by Keeley Smith.
The excitement in the air within the subterranean space at The Blind Donkey was palpable.
Shots were swung into the mouths of fervent Second District city council candidate Jeannine Pearce supporters. People were smiling and hugging, heady at the prospect of their candidate leading the 2nd District primary—a race that has been somewhat fraught with misleading campaign tactics. Pearce emphasized her status as the only candidate not linked to misleading campaign flyers or endorsements thus far.
By 11:00PM, results from mail ballots and 16 of the 29 precincts within the Second District were in: Pearce was continuing her steady lead, with 41.8 percent of the vote over Eric Gray’s 31.8 percent and Joen Garnica’s 20.1 percent.
“When we started, people said she was ‘too progressive,’” said Councilmember Rex Richardson. He riled up the crowd, thanking them for their passion, stating the votes provided evidence that Pearce’s platform was necessary and engaging.
“I think at the beginning, everyone was skeptical,” Pearce told the Post last night. “I think I had the most to prove to everybody—whether it was funding or voter contact.”
Around midnight, the final results streamed in: Pearce finished on top, with a final 43.6 percent of the vote, followed by Gray at 36.9 percent and Garnica at 19.5 percent.
“We’ve got 10 more weeks of fighting to ensure we get to the doors and people vote,” said Pearce of her final victory, amid a platform that had been outfitted with celebratory karaoke materials. “A June election means we’re going to win.”
Supporters of Gray, consistently just below Pearce as the results emerged, gathered at the Stave Bar with cautious optimism, hugging Gray and watching live results on the screen behind the bar.
“I’m feeling relaxed,” said Gray, before the final tally was announced. “I started this a long time ago—I announced my candidacy last June. It’s nice to have people here, and it looks like there’s going to be a runoff.”
Gray was right on the money. He will be facing the runoff with Pearce on June 7. Given the final outcome, Gray trailed Pearce by just 251 votes. Supporters were confident he’d absorb some of Joen Garnica’s following.
"I am feeling very good about how things turned out last night," said Gray this afternoon. I am so grateful for all of my supporters who have worked so hard over the past several months. The primary election goes to show that voters in the 2nd District are not going to be misled by false character attacks. They are going to support the candidate who has done the most for the community [...] That’s why I am very confident in our prospects for the General Election."
His supporters last night agreed.
“I first met Eric when we were tree planting next to Berlin’s,” said Chas Escalante, a friend and resident of the Second District’s Promenade neighborhood. “He’s just a stand up guy. He’s great with building places that will positively affect the community.”
Other supporters emphasized he was “all about Long Beach,” as evidenced by his past participation in Leadership Long Beach and the Downtown Residential Council.
Throughout the night, they mingled in and out of the Stave, positive about Gray’s prospects and appreciating their moment to show their support.
On the other side of Rainbow Harbor, Joen Garnica thanked her supporters for coming out, which included those who endorsed her at the Long Beach Area Chamber.
Early in the night, before any results arrived, Chamber Senior Vice President Jeremy Harris hoped the hard work over the past months spelled victory for Garnica.
“I’m hopeful the last six, seven, eight months are going to pay off,” said Harris. “The is one of the great processes of the city—to watch the voters come out and support the candidates they believe in.”
Garnica said she was relaxed and happy to be in the company of friends and family, no matter the results.
With the generation of the final tally and news of her loss, she praised her supporters and pledged her commitment to the community in her free time, via Facebook status and an email to the Post.
“I am so incredibly blessed to have walked in this experience with so many wonderful people in the city that I love,” wrote Garnica. “[...] Today, I will take a much-needed break and spend time with my family. Because tomorrow the work continues. I have a business and a neighborhood association to run, and many non-profits to contribute to in this great city of Long Beach.”
This report was updated at 6:04PM with a statement from Eric Gray regarding the June 7 election.